Basses Backward

folk music creativity, or dave van ronk & mississippi john hurt backstage at the gaslight.

I had been playing John’s ‘Spike Driver’s Blues’ ever since the mid 1950s, and it wasn’t until I met him that I realized I had got the basses backward. John and I were sitting around with a guitar one evening down at the Gaslight, and I was playing my version for him, and this puzzled look came over his face. He started watching my right hand, and he said, “You’ve got those basses backward.” And he played me a few measures of the way he did it. It was just like on the record and by god he was right. I said, “Oh, shit, back to the old drawing board.’ And he says, “No, no, no. You really ought to keep it that way. I like that.” That’s the folk process for you: some people call it creativity, but them who knows calls it mistakes.— Dave Van Ronk

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